Oh dear, not a single entry for February – v. poor! Not that there is that much to report. I have been tied to the desk trying to get assignments finished for a course I’m trying to complete before the baby arrives.  And on that note, I am slowly turning into a weeble incable of bending over for long enough to do anything productive before I ping back into an upright position.

We are now experiencing more eggs than we know what to do with. Luckily, there are plenty of people willing to pay for a few, which is a complete bonus because it is probably now covering the cost of the corn and bedding. It may be just a small hint at self sufficiency but I think it counts?

When we got the new chooks last autumn they were point of lay but not yet laying, and the original crew (of 2) had stopped laying, probably due to moulting. Last year it seemed a very short amount of time they stopped laying but this year I think they took offence at the addition of 3 newcomers and have been sulking ever since.  So it had been a pretty barren winter for eggs until all that snow thawed when Ethel, one of our originals and always the best layer of enormous eggs, started laying again! She it Queen of the pecking order so I suppose it is to be expected she would be first. That was about a week ago, then, Saturday morning, there were TWO eggs!! Not only that, but one is a distinctly darker shade of terracota than we’ve seen before – conclusion: one of the new chooks is laying. Very excited household starts mad internet search to find out what colours might relate to what type of chicken. Apart from finding out that egg colour is genetically linked to earlobe colour (the darker the earlobe, the darker the eggshell… I think) I struggled to find a comprehensive list of breeds and their eggshell colour. The new hens are all different, a Black Rock,  Bluebell and a Sussex Star and without doing anything remotely logical (like inspecting their earlobes) I’ve concluded its my Courtney the Black Rock that has started. But, I reserve the right to amend that judgement based on future observations! Maybe by next weekend, another will started laying…

Back in the autumn I was planning on making sloe gin – we did have a beautiful looking crop of sloes coming along. Unfortunately, when the morning sickness kicked I lost all interest in the idea and by the time I was thinking I could stomach it, the birds had run off with the sloes. Luckily, Andy was quicker off the mark with picking the damsons and we have had an enormous bag sat in the freezer awaiting my attention. So, today I finally decided it was time to get them steeping…

 I hunted around on the internet and found a variety of recipes, of which some even recommend freezing the damsons first! Having read all the recipes, I resorted to making it up as I went along.  I started off with a clean jar and added:

500g frozen damsons
150g white granulated sugar
70cl gin (courtesy of a birthday present which arrived after I found out I was pregnant and could no longer be quite so indulgent)

The jar didn’t look very full so I then sloshed in about another 30cl of gin from an open bottle, another couple of handfuls of damsons and another couple of tablespoons of sugar. Obviously not exactly a scientific approach and won’t find out the results for quite some time. All the recipes say shake every day for a couple of weeks until all the sugars dissolved, then leave to mature for 3-4 months before straining and decanting and possibly leaving another 6 months before consumption… I hope its worth the wait!

I have been very naughty, starting a blog then completely failing to keep it up to date. Still no apologies, was busy doing other things.

And, it has been a busy year although trying to sum up our successes I find I can’t remember anything, although that could just be my presnt conditions, more on that in a minute. In terms of produce we didn’t get perhaps as much as we would have liked but did pretty well with:

broccoli, kale, cabbages, onions, garlic, courgettes, parsnips, plums, damsons, redcurrants, gooseberries, apples (although not nearly as many as last year), some strawberries and a few runner beans.

Actually, thats not a bad list for our first year. It is overshadowed by a potato crop completely devastated by slugs, the little tiny buggers burrowed their way in and left a hollow shell. There was a lot of swearing involved in digging them up. Lesson for next year is to plant smaller amounts more regularly and dig them up quick before they get a  chance to become infested. The other disappointment was the tomatoes. I know they are supposed to be easy but we never seem to have much success. They never seem to ripen in time and I think they got blighted this year as well.

Still, major success at our first village show in July – prize winning biscuits, chutney and courgettes, the only classes we entered! Particularly pleased with the courgettes as they beat the local prize winning veg grower who won every other class of veg. The was much silliness and merriment, dancing with morrismen and entering a bidding war for our own biscuits!!

The other major development over the summer was the Amish-style erection of the new chicken shed and the arrival of 3 new chickens in October. May I present: Nora the Explorer, Jemima Puddlechicken and Courtney Clucks who join a less than impressed Gilbert, Ethel and Vera.

The late part of the summer and autumn was overshadowed for me by the affliction that is morning sickness. Yes, number 3 is on the way, due the end of April, and did put an abrupt halt on my gardening efforts. Luckily it passed in good time for Christmas and I have enjoyed way too many mince pies and consequently look imminently ready to pop rather than only midway through. Nevermind, will deal with that later.

So, on with the show. Well at least hopefully at some point, it has all stalled due to ridiculous amounts of snow and now completely waterlogged soil but we’ll see how things look next weekend – we are aiming for a trip to the garden centre for some rhubarb and a pear tree or two…

Well, its been a while, but I haven’t forgotten you (Lorna!) so back with an update. Don’t even know where to start. So will start by saying I have done absolutely nothing constructive this weekend. Have been mostly eating, drinking, walking in the rain and throwing coconuts. The good news is that it was our village show this weekend, and our debut year was a complete success. We didn’t enter many classes, not really knowing what it was all about, but won in every one! Andy – first prize biscuits (sorry Pete: third place loser!); Sarah – first prize beetroot chutney; and perhaps most impressively (because there were more than 2 entries in this class) first prize courgettes. Just watch out everyone, next year we will be back with avengence.

PS Note to self, when the hill is in cloud, there is no spectacular view to show the city folk visiting for the weekend; there is just a lot of very wet sheep.

I learnt to knit as a child but recently decided to resurrect the skill and its quite sad but I am really enjoying it. So far I have made: hat, scarf and mittens, although the hat turned out a bit small because I used the wrong sized needles – it was for a 4 year old, luckily I also have a 1 year old who it fitted perfectly! Oo and I also made a dress for a Dora the explorer doll and a hooded jacket for a friends baby.

Last weekend I had a bit of a session on ebay trying to but some wool or yarn as the knitters seem to refer to it. I went a bit mad in the end. It started off with me losing a couple of bids – who’d have thought bidding for yarn was so competitive? I got very annoyed as I had already virtually knitted at least 3 items with some nicely colour coordinated yarn. Then I got carried away and by Monday I had won 8 lots, which added up to quite a lot of money and quite a lot of yarn. Not a lot I could do about it by then so I have now filled the bottom of my wardrobe with more balls of wool than I know what to do with!

I started knitting the first jumper yesterday…

Have had a bit of a nightmare the last week . The weather has been stunning (that’s not the nightmare obviously) but I’ve been stuck inside studying. Final assignment for an Open University course was due in of Friday so I spent all week in a blind panic. Still, it’s now done, slightly short in a couple of places but at least its off my back, now I just have an exam, but thats not for a month…

Andy has made up for my lack of gardening effort by going into overdrive. He’s planted: potatoes, onions, garlic in our newly dug beds and got some seeds going in our greenhouse (which we have now managed to stabilise!). Have no idea exactly what he’s planted, except that I made him some labels from an old margarine tub!  We’ve also got sweetcorm and tomatoes on the windowsills. In the meantime I’ve manged to germinate 3 chillis. I have some catching up to do…